The first case of 2019 novel coronavirus in Wisconsin has been confirmed by the Department of Health Services (DHS), in cooperation with UW Hospital and Clinics and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Coronavirus has made headlines recently. An epidemic in China killed 493 people, and 24,500 cases are being tracked worldwide. Some 12 cases have been reported in the United States thus far.
Nevertheless, health officials say there is not much risk to the general public. “The risk of getting sick from 2019 novel coronavirus in Wisconsin is very low,” said State Health Officer Jeanne Ayers. “We are responding aggressively to the situation and monitoring all developments. We are committed to keeping the public fully informed and will continue to provide updates as this situation unfolds.”
The adult patient, according to a DHS press release, had a history of travel to Beijing, China before becoming ill, and encountered sick individuals while in the country. “The individual is isolated at home, and is doing well,” reads the release.
Symptoms of the virus include fever, cough and difficulty breathing. Signs of the disease may take as long as 14 days to develop. Severity can range from mild to pneumonia-like illness. Coronavirus comes from a group of viruses which includes the common cold. “UW Health has taken precautions, including ongoing staff training and recently expanding our travel history questions,” said UW Health Medical Director of Infection Control Dr. Nasia Safdar. “Since initial treatment at University Hospital, the patient has been self-quarantined at home. We are coordinating with the CDC, DHS, and local health authorities.”
Dr. Ryan Westergaard, a DHS medical officer, stated that healthcare staff who had contact with the Wisconsin patient are also being monitored for symptoms. “That being said, the facility was alerted immediately upon admission to the patient’s risk status,” said Westergaard, “and appropriate measures were taken at the facility to protect staff and other patients.”
The medical officer confirmed that 10 other individuals fit the criteria for possible exposure, though none are confirmed to be sick. “Of these, seven have had negative test results,” said Westergaard. Two tests are still pending. “The important message is that there’s a very wide range, including very mild symptoms and possibly cases with no symptoms.”
Protecting yourself from exposure, not only from coronavirus but other flu-like diseases, is simple. “This particular virus is very susceptible to just the typical disinfectants that are used in hospitals and healthcare facilities,” said respiratory disease epidemiologist Tom Haupt. “There is no immediate danger, and the threat to the public is very low at this time.” Haupt said every effort is being made to reach out to people who might have been exposed, and to monitor them for the safety of the general public.